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Brandy

Wingman Wednesday

Siobhán Williams

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Based on the graphic novel by Rick Remender, “Deadly Class” is one the most anticipated series of the new year for comic book-loving television viewers. With an incredible ensemble cast that represents the future of Hollywood, the Syfy action-fest takes place at a high school for assassins during the 1980s and is filled to the brim with counterculture references, many of which are still relevant today.

This time out we’re chatting with Siobhán Williams, who plays Brandy Lynn, to discuss the fears of taking on such a controversial character, why she ultimately decided to tackle Brandy, and the reason she’d rather be playing Red Dead Redemption 2 than chasing fame.

TrunkSpace: Between the release of “Welcome to Marwen” and the first season of “Deadly Class” kicking off, we would imagine this is a very exciting time for you. Is it necessary to strike a balance between enjoying the moment and suppressing expectations, because this does seem like a business where so much is out of your control once a project calls wrap.
Williams: Thank you! It’s definitely been exciting. For sure, there is so much that can go wrong within a project. It’s a miracle to even get a script green-lit, and once that happens there are about seven million different roadblocks that can set it back or stop it from ever seeing the light of day. Even if it does come out, your scenes could be cut or role diminished, any number of things. You can never have expectations in this industry – you have to remain present and enjoy the process. Art is never finished, only abandoned, so I think every artist needs to learn to enjoy the process. I don’t think any decent artist can look back at their completed work and say “it’s perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing.” But truly I think this is something that can be applied to the human condition as a whole – so much is out of our control in life, we just have to do our best and do what fulfills us and hope for the best.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the great cast, “Deadly Class” also has a number of people behind the camera with a track record for bringing compelling storytelling to the masses, including the Russo Brothers. Did you view your time on “Deadly Class” as just as much of an education as you did a job? What did you absorb from the people around you that you’ll apply to your career moving forward?
Williams: I view every job I have as an education. I learned most of what I know about acting and film/TV on set – asking questions within each department and observing the people around me. “Deadly Class” was a particularly inspiring environment because everyone on set seemed to be striving to learn. I think the most admirable people are those who are open-minded, egoless, and always endeavoring to learn and ask questions. Those are the people who are the most intelligent and successful, because they just suck up information like a sponge. People who are cocky and close-minded never grow or evolve. I have a real love for cameras and photography, so I’d say what I learned most on “Deadly Class” was regarding technical directing. I watched all of our episodic directors closely and took note of their processes.

TrunkSpace: Your character Brandy Lynn may prove to be a bit controversial. She says and does things that will make many people do spit takes while watching. Was there a part of you that was hesitant to take on a character that people will love to hate?
Williams: Absolutely, I was hesitant. I’m still pretty scared of Brandy. I remember having a lot of conversations with my boyfriend about how it would affect my career if the show blew up and I became known for portraying a racist. Would the world hate me? But then I read the comics and discovered how intelligent and highly political they were. I realized that “Deadly Class” is (among other things) a commentary on how flawed the system is – how the wealth gap is fucking up America, how corporate greed is fucking up America. And I realized that I owe it to 2019 to portray a character that is a real-world villain. People like Brandy exist. They are everywhere, coming out of the woodwork especially now that they’ve been enabled and endorsed by the political climate in this country. People are mad that Brandy doesn’t look like J.K. Simmons in “Oz.” She doesn’t instantly look terrifying. She doesn’t look like a monster, but she is one. She’s the kind of person that we should be terrified of in real life. A seemingly innocuous, harmless individual with hatred boiling under the surface waiting for the first opportunity to strike. And if we are upset to see a fictional teenage girl spewing her parent’s indoctrinated fascist hatred on a television show but are fine electing representatives who do the same, well – that just goes to show how badly this story needs to be told.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, from a performance standpoint, is bad sometimes good? And by that we mean, when you’re able to inhabit a character with traits so far removed from societal norm, does it make your time on set more fantastical?
Williams: I wouldn’t say that playing a fascist is fantastical. But from an acting standpoint, the further a character is from myself the more challenging and therefore more interesting it is to play. I never wanted to be an actor who just played myself – but on television. I never wanted to be in shows where I could “just look hot” and read the lines in a minimalist and soapy teen way. I’ve always wanted to be a character actor, and travel as far from myself in as many ways as possible – and playing Brandy definitely does that. Roles that require research, a different era, a different accent, a new skill – those are things that draw me to projects. And somehow, amazingly, “Deadly Class” provided me with all of the above.

In terms of playing a villain – I do have to say that villains are often my favorite characters in shows. Christopher Heyerdahl (who plays The Swede in “Hell on Wheels”) is one of my favorite villains of all time. Watching him was so maddening it was almost cathartic. I don’t know if people will love to hate Brandy – or if they’ll just hate to hate her. But I guess we will see.

DEADLY CLASS — “Noise, Noise, Noise” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Siobhan Williams as Brandy, Jack Gillett as Lex — (Photo by: Katie Yu/SYFY)

TrunkSpace: Beyond the character work, there’s also a lot of stunt work involved in your portrayal of Brandy Lynn. How does the physical aspect of the job enhance your on-set experience? When you know you’re walking into a stunt-heavy day, is it exciting, daunting or a mixture of both?
Williams: It’s so exciting! I love it. The only time it’s daunting is when I’m still in pain from stunt rehearsals like two days before. I love the challenge that choreography provides, and I love feeling strong, and one thing I love about Brandy is her fighting style. She isn’t technical like Saya or balletic like Maria, she’s just fucking savage. She does whatever it takes to win, and it’s not finessed, it’s just scrappy.

TrunkSpace: You have a dance background. Does that skill set work to your advantage when learning and perfecting a particular fight sequence or on-camera stunt?
Williams: I think so – my memory for choreography helps, and having a lot of flexibility and core strength that I’ve retained from ballet.

TrunkSpace: “Deadly Class” is based on a graphic novel. Comics continue to be a well that Hollywood taps into, both for film and television adaptation. As an actress, what is it like having that source material (and existing audience!) available to you, but at the same time, not having the pressure of stepping into a brand that the masses have been exposed to yet, like the Spider-Man or Batman universes?
Williams: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s great having the creator of this entire world (Rick Remender) to guide us. The comics are amazing to be consistently referring back to for information and backstory, and for tone. And the fact that Brandy hasn’t been as elaborated on gives me creative freedom to enhance and add to her.

TrunkSpace: If “Deadly Class” becomes a smash hit and it catapults you to a new level of fame and recognition, is that something that you would welcome? Is fame a part of the equation, or is it a necessary evil to pursue your dreams in this industry?
Williams: Umm. That’s a tough question, and something I try not to think about. Fame isn’t something I’ve ever wanted – acknowledgment of work, that’s something that would be nice I guess. But fame? I dunno. I’m a pretty insular person and the concept of fame is uncomfortable to me. I think that some celebrities invite fame, and in order to be on the front of the tabloids and be really famous you have be working damn hard for it – paying a publicist and doing tons of interviews and photoshoots and going to the clubs where celebs go to be “seen” – I mean, I think it takes conscious effort, and there’s just so many things I’d rather be doing. Like volunteering with animals or hanging with my cats or playing Red Dead Redemption 2. But maybe I’m wrong. I dunno. Maybe fame shows up uninvited sometimes.

Williams with Steve Carell in “Welcome To Marwen”

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Williams: Working with Steve Carell and Bob Zemeckis was definitely one of them. Realizing that maybe I can use this career for good and help raise awareness/money for causes that are important to me is the biggest one. That’s ongoing though.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Williams: Dude, no. Messing with the time/space continuum never goes over well. Have you watched “Back to the Future”?!

Deadly Class” premieres January 16 on Syfy.

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Wingman Wednesday

Arielle Carver-O’Neill

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In a series filled with demons, murderous trees, and a hell-raising grimoire called the Necronomicon, it says something that the scariest storyline to come out of “Ash vs Evil Dead” may be that the man tasked with stopping all of the evil is actually a… gulp… father.

No one ever said that making the undead dead again would be easy, but for Ash Williams, chainsaw-wielding, boomstick-blasting anti-hero of “The Evil Dead” franchise, the most difficult thing he may have to face in Season 3 of the Starz gorefest is his own teenage daughter, played by the Australian-born Arielle Carver-O’Neill. Responsibility isn’t exactly Ash’s thing, unless there is a taproom called Responsibility in Jacksonville.

We recently sat down with Carver-O’Neill to discuss raising the bar higher than possessed cadaver colons, sprinkling “Ashisms” into her performance, and staring down the nozzles of eight blood canons.

TrunkSpace: You’re joining one of the wildest, no-holds-barred shows on television. How long did it take for you to say to yourself, “How the hell did I get here?” while on set? Were you thrust right into some crazy, Deadite-filled scene that felt just left of reality?
Carver-O’Neill: The first week of filming felt like shooting a drama. I was crying almost every day as Brandy loses her mother and her best friend all in one horrific and bloody evening so there were a lot of tears. When I finally saw the first episode I was surprised at how funny it was, I kind of forgot that it was a comedy.

But that really is what’s so special and unique about “Ash vs Evil Dead.” As Bruce put it to me one day on set, “It’s the place to come if you want to learn.” As an actor it’s so exciting and it keeps you on your toes. One day you’re shooting fight scenes and action sequences with stunt performers, the next you’re in a drama grieving the loss of the life you knew, another you’re in a comedy and witnessing Bruce Campbell deliver epic one-liners and trying really hard not to laugh.

TrunkSpace: Was the idea of working on a series with no storytelling filters an exciting one when you first signed on to inhabit Brandy? As you just mentioned, you’re getting to play with so many genres in a single show, which even in today’s vast television landscape seems like a rarity.
Carver-O’Neill: Definitely! It was fun to watch just how far they take things this season. I mean, last season Bruce was attacked by a cadaver’s possessed colon so of course you think, “Where on earth can they go from there!?” But they did, and they do! Our incredible team find such creative ways to up the stakes and the gross factor. Kelly has something on her leg for a little while and the prosthetics department did such an incredible job that looking at it made me feel nauseous. I can’t wait for people to see it. Poor Dana (DeLorenzo) had to walk around with that thing on though – she deserves an award. I couldn’t sit with her at lunch unless she covered it up.

TrunkSpace: The core evil-fighting trio of Bruce, Dana and Ray Santiago have built up an amazing on-screen chemistry. Were you fighting any butterflies coming into the cast and feeling a bit like the new kid in class? How long did it take for you to feel a part of the “Ash vs Evil Dead” family?
Carver-O’Neill: I was definitely nervous going in, but I was also so excited to have a job and be working with such icons like Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless and learn as much as I could. The first piece of advice Bruce gave me when I met him was, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong,” so I did my best to keep reminding myself of that. That being said, everyone was so welcoming, supportive and nice that I felt part of the family very quickly. They’re all such good people and great actors, I learnt so much from working with them… and we also had the world’s greatest crew.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was it about Brandy that you were most excited to dive into? As more of the season came into focus for you, did new aspects of her personality reveal themselves?
Carver-O’Neill: They did – we only get the scripts as we’re filming so her arc kind of revealed itself to me. It made the journey a little more real. She didn’t know where she’d end up and neither did I! Brandy goes on this incredible journey. Her entire reality is shattered and those closest to her are taken violently and traumatically and she’s left feeling very alone, confused and grieving. Not only for her mother and best friend but for the world she had created around her. She’s also the kind of person who needs to figure things out for herself, she doesn’t trust easily and so she doesn’t just believe what anyone says. She needs to find answers for herself. Through that she not only grows physically stronger throughout the season but she also gets mentally and emotionally stronger as well.

TrunkSpace: Brandy is Ash’s long-lost daughter. Those are some big genes to fill. Are there any aspects of how Bruce presents Ash that you get to mirror given the fact that you’re his onscreen offspring?
Carver-O’Neill: Bruce and I talked about putting in mannerisms (we called them Ashisms) and some moments where you see Brandy do something that Ash would do. We don’t know if they’ll make the cut, but we had a lot of fun finding them to show just how alike they are.

And even though Brandy didn’t grow up with Ash, they do have a lot in common. They share that Williams’ stubborn streak, the habit of acting first and thinking later (or never in Ash’s case), their trust issues and sense of humor. But at the same time I still wanted Brandy to be very much her own person – she’s more ambitious and quite a bit smarter than her father.

Carver-O’Neill with Bruce Campbell in “Ash vs Evil Dead”

TrunkSpace: One of the things that seems like a rite of passage for all “Ash vs Evil Dead” regulars is a complete on-camera drenching in blood and/or demon-related fluids. How long did it take before you got covered in cinematic goo and what was that experience like?
Carver-O’Neill: I had eight blood canons while filming the 10 episodes of this season. Yup, eight! And a blood canon is only one of the ways they get you with the gore and viscera!

In case anyone doesn’t know… a blood canon is a way they can hit you with a hell of a lot of fake blood in a shorter amount of time. So there’s a keg of cold, sticky fake blood with a hose connecting to an air pressure tank thing with another hose being held by a very happy-looking special effects crew member who is pointing the end of that hose at you, and most likely at your face. There are also different nozzles on the end to change the look and shape of the blood as it hits you… I could write a book on this process just from one season! Anyway, it sounds like a chainsaw and it feels like a high pressure hose and there is no controlling your face or body when it hits you. Pretty much every time you have to pretend you don’t know it’s coming so the shock is real. It’s quite the adrenaline rush. I recommend it to everyone.

My first blood canon we had new directors to the series and it was also their first blood canon… they got a bit excited and just let it roll for about 30 seconds. That’s a steady stream of blood to my face for 30 seconds straight.

TrunkSpace: Those Deadites love to throw out one-liners while they’re raising demonic hell, but truth be told, that Deadite look – the milky white eyes, gnarly teeth and emaciated faces – is pretty terrifying. When you’re staring down a costar in Deadite makeup, is it easier to tap into the primal fight or flight response for the sake of the scene? Does it help you to express fear as Brandy?
Carver-O’Neill: It always does make it a little easier when it’s all there in front of you. The prosthetics and visual effects team on the show are such incredibly talented and skilled artists that it does take some getting used to when you’re standing behind a Deadite in the lunch line.

I had so much fun working with different methods on the show. Sometimes all the Deadites are right in front of you, grabbing at or chasing you and that’s always a little easier. But it was such a fun exercise when you get to use your imagination and there’s actually nothing there. Or you’re fighting an inanimate object, or yourself!

TrunkSpace: In a single sentence, how would you best describe your acting journey from where you began your career to where you are today on “Ash vs Evil Dead?”
Carver-O’Neill: Hard work pays off.

TrunkSpace: Within that journey, did you ever question if you were taking the right path? Was acting a choice or the ONLY choice for you?
Carver-O’Neill: I never really had that day or that moment where I was like, “That’s what I wanna do! I wanna be an actor!” I’ve just always known and always loved it. I can’t remember a time that was different. Though it’s definitely had it’s hard moments, there’s been a lot of struggle but I keep reminding myself in those times that persistence is key. I’m a hard worker and I love doing it and I plan on acting until I either can’t or I stop loving it.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to have a glimpse at what your career will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Carver-O’Neill: Nope. I would hate knowing. It would make me so neurotic! And those movies never turn out well… either it’s good news and they get complacent so the future changes and goes bad, or it’s bad news and they try desperately to change it, only to make it worse. I’m good letting my story unfold as I go.

Ash vs Evil Dead” airs Sundays on Starz.

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